Showing up

Pretty sure I’ve posted a blog that says more or less this same thing at least 63 times, but it’s worth saying again. I get more work done, more good pages, more excellent rewriting done when I actually put myself in the chair during my most productive hours (8 am to 12 pm) and…uh…work.

It sounds so simple, but it isn’t, actually. I have to bypass the Internet, even a little glimpse into it. Not just for the reason that it distracts me, and I can find something to do, but because it changes the direction of my thoughts, pulls me into the world instead of pulling me into myself. I used to walk the dog right after breakfast, but I make him wait now until I take my morning break. I do not answer the phone. I don’t do anything but go to the office with my coffee in hand and sit down at my desk. I’m allowed to write a journal or lists of things I’d like to accomplish or even lists of scenes. I don’t even let myself do a meditation right there in the corner, which is all set up for it. Even that can be a way for me to avoid going into the world of my novel.

I can journal, etc, for 20 minutes, then I have to open the file and get moving. Usually what happens is that I can’t go into it cold–it feels too challenging, too scary for my still emergent creativity–so I find a spot I know I want to tweak, or one I know I’m going to like, and I read there. I change a word or two, rewrite a sentence here, a sentence there. I read aloud to get the cadence right, maybe, or play with subtext or echoes. This always works to pull me back into the world of the book at hand, and out of my own head and life and agitations.

And surprise! By 11 or sometimes even by 9:30, I’ve done my pages for the day and I am free to do other things. Like today, when I am headed out to Barnes and Noble for a coffee and a nice amble. Maybe I’ll look at journals for my upcoming travels.

How do you trick yourself to do things?

11 thoughts on “Showing up

  1. Nice post, Barbara, and one I can’t read enough. I also have to sneak up on my creative work – get the file opened, do something easy like today I’m adding some details throughout the MS. Soon, I’ll have to focus on the actual story. I applaud you for such self-discipline in the morning, closing off the outer world so that you can focus on the inner world. I need to work on that. Thanks for sharing your world with us.

  2. I totally agree with you, Barbara, and need to rehone that will-power bone in my spine that keeps me off the net first thing in the morning. Now, where did I hide my honing tools..?

  3. Mel

    I write better in the afternoon and evening but can definitely lose time faffing around on the net in the morning where I could be doing other things. I don’t think I can completely avoid checking email because of the time difference. If you get much past 10am here in summer or 8am in winter you’ve missed New York. Day job days I never write in the morning so just check emails and blogs while eating brekky. Maybe I should try that on the other days too!

  4. Like you I have to resist the lure of the ether. And you put it so well – that it pulls you out of yourself and into the world. Now I get up an hour earlier, which is painful but makes me feel the house hasn’t woken up. I turn my computer on but leave the router off, and make sure the first thing I load in my head is my novel. An hour later I allow myself emails, blogging and tweeting, but by then my novel has limbered up in my head and is the predominant occupant.

    Your phrase has made me realise why this works well for me. Thanks!

  5. “Great advice,” I write while getting my daily blog fix when I should be opening my WIP and getting down to the business of writing. Lol

  6. Ruthie

    I always start the day with such good intentions. I’ll get my ‘projects’ done if I start in the morning. Ah, yeah, no dice. I tend to be most productive late in the afternoon into the evening. I have no idea why this works for me. But it does. It’s been this way for years.

    Mornings? It’s the computer, babysitting my grandchildren, errands, etc.

  7. Barbara Samuel

    Definitely others have a time clock that is different from my own most productive times. I think I’m the only lark in a family of owls, and my son Ian is the only owl in a family of larks. The trick is to know when your most productive time is and respect it.

    It does seem to me that the Internet wastes a lot of time. For me. It’s easy to surf, not so easy to write or any number of other, more productive things.

  8. Sharon Knoell

    I need to follow your recommendations, even though I am dealing with daily homemaker stuff, not writing. I also think I should watch when I go to bed because if I am messing around on the computer, I go to bed late, get up later and nothing gets done. Thank you for the reminder.

  9. Barbara Samuel

    Sharon, I do that, too. I have programmed the Internet to go off at a certain time so that I remember to just get to bed. Sleep is one of the things that will make the biggest difference to how I feel each day.

  10. It’s hard sometimes but I remind myself of everything I want to accomplish and all everything I want to see happen in my life and before long, I become energized. I can sit down and write for long periods of time then. If that doesn’t work, I cook something. Something old, something new, doesn’t matter. I find the process of chopping, grating, sauteing sooths me and I can get into the place in my head where I need to be and get the work done.

  11. You are so right!

    I need to remember to check emails after I’ve written. Also, I live on a small ranch, so as I clean up after my alpacas – my mind is fully engaged on my writing while I do the most mundane chores of cleaning up.

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